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Nutrition and aging: K-State expert discusses food safety for older adults

By Sara Shellenberger

 

Several factors can increase food safety for aging adults, according to Tina Remig, assistant professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University.

"Many believe that if they have achieved old age, their food practices must be correct," Remig said. "But in fact, food safety problems and illnesses that result from food preparation are underreported and many can be avoided."

Remig has researched food-handling practices among older adults and how to communicate safe practices to this group.

She offered these tips to improve food safety for aging adults:

* Use meat thermometers. "Most aging adults cook as they saw their mothers cook, which usually means without the use of a meat thermometer," Remig said. "But the use of a food thermometer has been proven to decrease the risk of foodborne illnesses."

* Store food in small quantities. "Of the older adults that cook, many continue to prepare foods in family-size portions and store the extra food in the refrigerator in one large container," she said. Such food storage can create a dangerous environment for foods, according to Remig. "The deeper the container, the more potential for bacteria to thrive and contamination to occur. With smaller, shallow containers, food cools more quickly and is more readily available," she said.

* Put foods away in a timely manner. "Leaving food on the counter or table and consuming it later without reheating is just not a good food safety practice," Remig said.

While some may find it challenging to alter past food-handling behaviors that are now considered unsafe, Remig said she hopes that people will continue to change as knowledge about safe food handling improves. "We now know more about nutrition overall. As we know more, we share more and may have to make changes," she said.

For additional food safety information, Remig suggests visiting the Fight BAC! campaign Web site at http://www.fightbac.org

 

Fall/Winter 2006